Learn what’s sending customers away with Google Analytics

Written by Nicole Kohler on April 28, 2015 Blog, Data & analytics.

As an eCommerce store owner, you’re likely focused on driving more traffic to your website from search engines, social media, and so on. But if your website isn’t converting enough of this traffic into sales, you may be feeling frustrated.

If a certain page or component on your website was causing these potential customers to leave, you would definitely want to address it. Well, through the use of data in Google Analytics, you can.

Using data from Google Analytics, you can identify the pages that are the weakest points in your sales process. Once identified, you can make plans to improve them, and convert more of your traffic into money.

Curious to know how you can turn more traffic into sales? Let’s dive into the data and find out what could be causing your customers to leave.

First step: enable Google Analytics on your store

If you haven’t yet tried out Google Analytics, now is a good time to start. Google Analytics is an add-on for any website, provided for free by Google, that allows owners to view both historical and real-time site data. With it you can see things like your website traffic, the countries sending you the most visitors, the specific pages on your site receiving the most clicks, and much more.

Where to sign up for Google Analytics.

First, you’ll need to enable Google Analytics for your website. Visit google.com/analytics and click “Access Google Analytics” if you’re already logged into a Google account, or “Create an account” to make a new profile.

Once you’re logged in, you can follow Google’s instructions to add a “property” — that is, a website — to Analytics. If you’re using WooCommerce, the easiest and most thorough way to integrate is with our Google Analytics Pro extension, which adds eCommerce tracking as well as coupon data.

With your store all linked up, you’ll be able to access it in Analytics. Your dashboard will be empty when you first log in, and you’ll have to give Google some time to collect data before there’s anything to analyze. But if you log in after a day or two, things will start populating quickly.

For this tutorial, we recommend utilizing at least one full month of Google Analytics data.

What to look for in Google Analytics

GA-logoOnce you’re logged into Analytics and you have enough data to work on, feel free to spend a little time clicking around the menus and browsing through pages. The program can be overwhelming at first, so here’s a quick tutorial from Google that will help you find your way around.

There are a few specific metrics that you’ll see used repeatedly throughout Google Analytics. Each of these metrics will tell you something different about how visitors are interacting with your store.

If you want to find the pages that are potentially sending shoppers away, you should pay attention to these specific metrics:

  • Average time on page — How long are most visitors spending on this page?
  • Bounce rate — The percentage of visitors who leave this page without visiting any other page on your website
  • Exit rate — The percentage of visitors who live your website from (or as a result of) this specific page

By looking at the pages with these metrics, you’ll be able to isolate the problematic ones — that is, the pages that may be causing potential customers to leave your store before they make a purchase.

There’s a lot more about your store that you can discover with Analytics, especially if you set up eCommerce Tracking. But for now, we’re going to focus on these three specific metrics.

Locate the appropriate report and baseline metrics

For starters, we want to look at a list of the pages on your website. One of the easiest ways to get a simple list like this is through the navigation on the left side.

Go to Behavior, then Site Content, then finally All Pages.

Access the “All Pages” report to get started.

By default, this screen will give you a list of every page on your website, ordered by the number of pageviews. You’ll also be supplied with data including the three metrics indicated above — avg. time on page, bounce rate, and exit rate.

On this report, you should look for pages with low time on page combined with high bounce or exit rates. You should try to single out the pages where visitors aren’t spending much time and appear to be leaving the website right after visiting them.

The first question you have will probably be “what’s a low time on page?” and the second will be “what’s a high bounce rate?” It really all depends on your site’s averages. You can look at other pages in this same report to glean that data, or you can go back to Behavior, then click Overview to get some baseline numbers (your site’s averages) to use here if you like.

Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to dig into the data.

Find problematic pages and note their URLs

Go down the All Pages report and look for any pages that have a low or lower than average time on page and/or a high bounce or exit rate. When you find one, take note of its URL and the metrics associated with it.

If your eCommerce store has a lot of products or pages, you might only want to evaluate the first 100 or 200 pages to start with. You can then come back at another time to review the others, or to re-evaluate your changes along with the impact they’ve made on your site as a whole.

Let’s look at a few examples of the things you should keep an eye out for.

Note: these screenshots were not compiled from live stores and are presented for sample purposes only.

This product has a high bounce rate.

70% of those who find this product page from a search engine “bounce” back to search without visiting any other pages, while more than 50% of customers choose to leave the site at this point without considering additional products.

This blog post isn’t keeping readers on the site very long.

The above page received several hundred visitors. However, visitors only stayed around for a little over a minute, which isn’t nearly long enough to read the full page (which is a lengthy blog post), and more than 75% of them left the site.

Too many customers are abandoning their carts!

Finally, here’s a shopping cart that has a worrying exit rate. Does yours look like this? Do a lot of shoppers appear to be abandoning their cart, or exiting your website during the checkout process? Remember to also check for individual pages of the checkout, not just the shopping cart!

As you go through the data in this report, you’ll begin to get a better grasp on which of your site’s pages are the highest performing, which might need a little work, and which simply aren’t pulling their weight.

Review the problematic pages for potential improvements

At this point you should have a list of URLs and some metrics. This list will tell you, in a nutshell, which pages are causing the most potential customers to leave your website.

Before doing anything else, you may want to eliminate any pages from this list that should be sending customers away. For example, a “thank you” or order confirmation page may have a high exit rate, but you’d expect most customers who finish a purchase to leave your site.

With your list pared down a bit, you can get started. Open each URL in a browser, one-by-one, and examine the page with a critical eye. Look at how long your visitors are spending there, on average, and what percentage of them are leaving the site upon viewing it.

Isolate the pages causing visitors to leave.

Ask yourself questions like this:

  • Is there anything about this page that could be clearer or better explained?
  • Is the content in-depth? Does it deliver what it promises to visitors from search? (For example, if a page is titled “How to…” does it explain how to accomplish that task in detail?)
  • Does this product have all the assets it needs (including photos, copywriting, and specifications) to motivate a customer to purchase?
  • If product photography is included, is it clear and of an adequate size? Are detail and/or close-up photos available?
  • If the page is part of your checkout process, is anything about it potentially confusing, unclear, or misleading?

If your own examination doesn’t seem to turn up anything out of the ordinary, ask someone else for their honest feedback. Sometimes it’s hard for you to find flaws with your own store, simply because you spend so much of your time looking at it.

Implement changes or use A/B tests to resolve issues

Once you’ve identified the pages with worrying metrics and examined them with a critical eye, the last step in the process is to implement some changes.

Depending on what you’ve found, you may be comfortable making changes immediately because there’s an almost 100% chance of customer happiness. For example, if you find that some of your product pages are missing copywriting or images, there’s no harm in adding these.

However, if you’re not certain that a new tactic will actually help you or solve your problem, you can always run an A/B test. This will compare the existing version of your page or website against a test version to see which converts the most customers. This allows you to know with certainty that a potential change will help, rather than hurt, your website.

We recommend utilizing an A/B test whenever you are considering any large changes, including:

  • Switching checkout styles (from one page to multi-page or vice-versa)
  • Re-styling or re-organizing your navigation
  • Redesigning any major pages, like your product pages, category pages, or checkout
  • Removing or replacing functionality that visitors have come to depend on

Of course, you can always utilize split tests like this for small elements, too, like calls to action in your copywriting, button text, or where your social media buttons appear on your product pages.

If you’re using WooCommerce, you can follow this beginner’s guide to A/B testing for WordPress to get started, or try out some of these A/B testing plugins to see which is right for you.

Knowing the source of your problems can help you find a solution

When your online store isn’t converting a high number of its visitors into paying customers, your gut reaction may be to test new features until you find something that seems to work. But this approach may never lead you to the root cause of your problems.

By using the data available to you in Google Analytics, and starting with the three basic metrics of time on page, bounce rate, and exit rate, you’ll be able to isolate the weakest pages on your site. And with these pages isolated, you’ll be able to look for patterns or potential problems that can then be resolved.

Have you used Google Analytics data to improve your eCommerce store? Have you ever found a page that was causing potential customers to leave your store, and made changes to keep more of them around? Feel free to share your experiences or advice in the comments!

Image credit: Google AnalyticsSearch Engine People Blog



15 Responses

  1. Raph
    April 29, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

    Woo should learn what’s causing their customers to leave this blog.

    Hint: It has to do with the blog’s content.

    • Nicole Kohler
      April 29, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

      Very sorry to hear you feel that way Raph! If you have some more constructive feedback on our content by all means please do let us know how we’re falling short for you. Our goal here is to serve our customers and help them grow their businesses, so we’d love to know how you (or anyone else reading) feel we could do that better. 🙂

      • Raph
        April 30, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

        No. I will not tell you how you could be doing better.

        • Nicole Kohler
          May 1, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

          Well, thanks for chiming in! 🙂

          • Raph
            May 5, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

            I’m not sure I like your tone.

          • Mike
            May 13, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

            I think your doing a great job Nicole and there is nothing wrong with your tone. This guy seems to be very angry and his thoughts are not being directed in the right manner. Great article.

          • Nicole Kohler
            May 13, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

            Thanks Mike, glad you found the article useful! 🙂

        • Franz
          May 12, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

          What a lovely person you must be. 🙂

    • Dalton
      May 1, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

      Not sure what Raph is talking about, I’ve read some pretty good articles on this blog, including this one! WooThemes is a good source to learn about e-commerce best practices, I forward people links to articles here all the time.

      • Nicole Kohler
        May 1, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

        Very kind of you to say so Dalton, and thanks for the support 😀 Cheers!

  2. David
    May 3, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

    I’m just getting my feet wet with analytics, and it’s complicated! I appreciate all the clear suggestions I can get of what to look for and how to find it. Thanks for the pointers, Nicole 🙂

    • Nicole Kohler
      May 4, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

      You’re most welcome David! It really is complicated when you get started with it, but I’ve found that when you break it down into smaller sections or goals like this, it can be much easier to digest. 🙂

  3. Arif
    May 5, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

    Easy and effective explaination to google analytics.. I appreciate your positive efforts.


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